OPINION | Marshall Dlamini: EFF turns nine - Building a solid organisational foundation for economic freedom

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EFF supporters at the party's manifesto launch.
EFF supporters at the party's manifesto launch.
Kayleen Morgan

Nine years later, there is no doubt that the EFF's presence in all parts of South Africa positions the organisation as the future government, writes EFF secretary-general Marshall Dlamini


On 26 July 2013, delegates representing youth, workers, traditional leaders, activists, non-profit organisations, political parties, churches, academics, students and many more, from all across the length and breadth of South Africa, gathered in Soweto.

The question on everyone's mind was: what is to be done?

To many, especially doomsayers and those who opposed the dismantling of economic apartheid, the gathering was viewed as nothing more than a gathering of chance takers. Many people made this mistake because of their subjective bias toward anything formed and owned by black people, particularly youth. More than nine years later, the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) is the only weapon in the hands of black people to fight for economic freedom in our lifetime.

Political parties formed post-1994 in South Africa, in the democratic dispensation, there were either regionalist organisations confined to a certain geographical area, based on race or religion. The EFF is the first and only political party that is able to challenge the ruling party as it is not regionalist, not confined to one particular district or province, and not for a particular race or language. Instead, the EFF is guided by principles that affect all and seeks to lead a generation of young people on a trajectory of economic freedom in our lifetime.

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The delegates saw it fitting to agree that the EFF should be an economic emancipation movement, which should be mass-based, associated and related constantly with the grassroots and community movements, anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist and, importantly, contest political power in all spheres of government.

The EFF effectively outdid all political organisations founded post-1994 in terms of quantitative expansion and qualitative contributions to South Africa's political, ideological and parliamentary discourse.

Viewed us beginner's luck 

Not long after its formation, the EFF was able to build constitutional structures across all provinces, regions and branches, and contested its first elections just over a year after its formation. In 2014, the EFF participated in the national and provincial elections and received 6.35% of the votes, which translates to 61 public representatives, of which 31 were Members of Parliament and 30 were Members of the Provincial Legislature.

To many, this was viewed as beginner's luck, compared with the likes of COPE and others, who were formed and managed to gain a practical share of voters in the first elections.

However, the EFF surpassed these flawed characterisations as the movement was able to go to its first National People's Assembly (NPA) and came out with democratically elected leadership and a clear programme of action through an NPA practical assembly resolution. When the dust settled after the NPA, it became clear that the EFF, unlike many political parties, including the liberation movement, was able to hold an elective conference wherein delegates from different provinces, economic backgrounds, and cultural identities demonstrated a high level of discipline.

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The ability to manage the transition from formation, to the first election, to first elective conference, with the integrity of the party intact, was made possible because of the seven non-negotiable cardinal pillars and complementary pillars that everyone who joins the EFF must abide by, including principles that shape and guide all.

In addition, the EFF's performance in the 2016 Local Government Elections, wherein the party participated for the first time in a local government election and received 8.25% of the vote, proved two things: first, the EFF's performance in the 2014 national and provincial elections was not beginner's luck; and, secondly, the EFF was able to manage the transition from various stages that ordinarily lead to the collapse of parties, in a manner that ensured the organisation's growth. 

Presence in majority of wards 

A thorough analysis of the EFF's performance in elections and management of transitions from one leadership to the other, including interim leadership, will show that the EFF has a presence in the majority of the wards in South Africa. These are branches that represent a basic unit of the EFF and are constituted by fighters who understand that the EFF exists to fight, strive and advance the aspirations of the masses of our people unapologetically.

From the onset, there was an unequivocal commitment to building branches that would proclaim economic freedom as their political programme.

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Nine years later, there is no doubt that the EFF is a viable organisation with a strong centre. Unlike other political parties, the EFF is able to change leadership at elective conferences, without physical fights and the throwing of chairs. The level of discipline and commitment to the EFF and its principles, and not leaders, means that even after leaders are no longer in a position of influence, they continue to form part and parcel of the organisation, participate in programmes, and ensure the growth of the EFF.

Nine years later, there is no doubt that the EFF's presence in all parts of South Africa positions the organisation as the future government.

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While the collapse of the current sitting government does not automatically guarantee the EFF political power, the need to build even stronger and more sustainable branches is even more urgent today than it was nine years ago when we formed the EFF.

As we mark the ninth anniversary of our unwavering commitment to building a grassroots, workers, youth and internationalist organisation, there is no doubt that the EFF's presence in all parts of South Africa is a solid organisational foundation for economic freedom in our lifetime.

Nine years later, as we conclude our one million membership campaign, declared at the beginning of 2022, there is no doubt that the solid organisational foundation laid for economic freedom in our lifetime will begin to bear fruit as we approach 2024 when the EFF will contest national and provincial elections for political power as the only organisation capable of transforming South Africa post-political freedom. 

- Marshall Dlamini is the secretary-general of the EFF. 

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